The End of Occupy DC

Sunday, February 5th, 2012

(By Josh Marks, cross-posted at Green Forward)

On Saturday, February 4, 2012 in Washington, D.C.’s McPherson Square, U.S. Park Police in riot gear, some on horseback, along with a hazmat team, raided the Occupy DC encampment and set up a perimeter around the park and began to clear out tents, bedding, debris and other belongings with forklifts and trucks.

They said they were enforcing the no camping regulations and not evicting the demonstrators.

This occurred in front of protesters, onlookers and the media on a cool, rainy, dreary winter day in the Nation’s Capital.

Streets were blocked off to traffic around McPherson Square by the Metropolitan Police Department traffic enforcement division.

While many in the Occupy movement are criticizing the heavy-handed tactics and unnecessary show of force by law enforcement, the U.S. Park Police are actually doing the movement a favor by shutting down the encampment. It will allow the next phase of the movement to begin, whatever that may be.

Occupy DC was one of the last remaining encampments after other cities such as New York had evicted their demonstrators. Frankly, the encampment at McPherson Square was beginning to become an eyesore and attracting anarchists and others not interested in reshaping our democracy to benefit the 99% but in destroying the system altogether. And the reports of rats and filthy conditions were becoming a distraction from the main message of this movement, which is to address the unsustainable social and economic inequality in America.

The slogan “you can’t evict an idea” that gained traction after Zuccotti Park was cleared out, will certainly apply to Occupy DC. Their heroic actions and sacrifice on behalf of working people everywhere will always be honored and one day there will be a plaque at McPherson Square remembering the brave men and women who slept under the stars to dream of a better America. But for now, it’s time to move on.

Here are more pictures taken Saturday afternoon of the end of Occupy DC at McPherson Square.

Occupy DC’s Last Stand

Monday, January 30th, 2012

(By Josh Marks, Cross-posted at Green Forward)

Tonight there might be arrests. There might even be violence. But this afternoon in the epicenter of the K Street lobbying corridor, a symbol of what so many Americans believe is wrong with Washington, Occupy DC at McPherson Square made a defiant last stand in a joyous celebration of one of the last remaining encampments inspired by last October’s original Occupy Wall Street protests at Zuccotti Park in New York City.

Yesterday the U.S. Park Police, who have authority over the park, warned demonstrators of a noon deadline today when they would begin enforcing a no camping ban. At about 11:45 a.m., in front of a swarm of media and hundreds of curious onlookers, some of the protestors climbed the statue of Major General James Birdseye McPherson and hung a big blue tarp called “Tent of Dreams.” Then the Occupiers entered the tarp and began chanting and singing and listening to music.

While many downtown office workers looked down from the roofs of their buildings in anticipation of seeing a showdown, it never materialized as the noon deadline passed. There were only a scattering of uniformed police officers manning the corners of the park. So the afternoon instead turned into somewhat of a final hurrah for a phase of a movement that has inspired so many people around the world.

Even for those who dismiss the Occupy movement with harsh words aimed at the lack of organization and singular message, or even criticizing the “aging hippies” and “entitled white kids” that are involved, as many Tea Party trolls angrily comment on news websites, they cannot deny the power that Occupy has had. Income inequality has become a part of the national consciousness and populist rage aimed at money in politics is now being discussed by the mainstream media and politicians. Even President Obama’s State of the Union recently took a page from the Occupy movement by addressing the growing gap between the wealthiest 1% and the majority of Americans and calling for economic fairness.

Tomorrow the tents may be gone and the jails may be full, but Occupy has already won because they have put political and economic justice front and center. And until our economic and political systems start benefiting the 99% instead of just the 1%, then the Occupy message will continue to resonate regardless of whether or not people are physically occupying a public space.

Weekend Reading List

Saturday, January 21st, 2012

For this weekend’s reading list we have articles on the benefits of energy efficiency, the efficiency of federal safety net programs, President Obama’s focus on long term strategy, how austerity is killing European economies, and how Occupy Wall Street has gotten economic inequality onto the political agenda.

If you have any feedback on these articles, or would like to recommend an article for next weekend’s reading list, please let us know at Winning Progressive’s Facebook page.

Energy Efficiency: Still Awesome, Still Ignored - How energy efficiency is overlooked even though it can save money, create jobs, protect the environment, and reduce energy use.

Romney’s Charge That Most Federal Low-Income Spending Goes For “Overhead” and “Bureaucrats” is False – a report detailing that, contrary to Multiple Choice Mitt Romney’s false claims, less than 10% of social safety net spending is for administrative and overhead costs, with more than 90% of such spending providing actual aid to beneficiaries

How Obama’s Long Game Will Outsmart His Critics – independent conservative Andrew Sullivan explains how President Obama’s focus on long term strategy is outsmarting his critics on all sides of the political debate

How Austerity is Killing Europe – a detailing of how the European Union’s obsession with cutting spending has caused a vicious circle of increasing economic problems leading to further austerity leading to further economic problems in every European nation where austerity has been tried

The Return of Inequality - an essay about how the Occupy Wall Street movement shifted political discourse in the US to put reducing economic inequality on the agenda

Occupy Movement Targets Congress

Friday, January 20th, 2012

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(By Josh Marks, Green Forward blog)

Thousands of demonstrators from across the country descended on the Capitol this past Tuesday to partake in the Occupy movement’s latest evolution – Occupy Congress. The protests took place on the day that lawmakers returned to Washington amid historically low approval ratings.

I hopped on the Metro after work and arrived at the Capitol South Station (the closest station to Congress) and was dismayed to see the station plastered with dirty energy ads from the American Petroleum Institute. The “I Vote 4 Energy” campaign is a cynically misleading attempt by the oil and gas industry to influence policymakers by falsely representing domestic fossil fuel production as a job creator and something a majority of Americans support. Click here for a detailed take down of API’s ad campaign from the website Political Correction. Contrary to Big Oil’s propaganda, a study conducted by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication last November on public support for energy and climate policies revealed that 90% of Americans believe developing sources of clean energy should be a very high to medium priority for the president and Congress; and 69% of Americans oppose federal subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. So the oil and gas industry is right about voting for energy, they are just wrong about the type of energy. Americans want clean renewable energy, not dirty fossil fuels.

And a renewable energy policy is but one of many issues Congress has failed to address, which is why the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol was full of people protesting the undue influence big money lobbyists like the American Petroleum Institute have on congressional lawmakers. A rainy, dreary Washington winter day transformed into a clear, starry night as live folk music lifted the spirits of thousands of Occupiers gathered in the muddy grass in the shadow of the brightly lit Capitol dome.

Soon after I arrived the majority of protestors left for a march to the Supreme Court and White House (on Friday a group called Move to Amend is marking the two year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decisionwith rallies at courthouses across the country.)

I interviewed Vince from Durham, North Carolina, asking him why he came up to D.C. for Occupy Congress.

“I’m here to support what I think is going on here, which is a lot of inequality and injustice between the wealthy and the rest of the people. I have no problem with wealthy people, it’s just that the system is kind of skewed, so it makes it not only really bad for us but ultimately it’s going to be bad for them as well as it keeps going forward and forward. You’ve got to have customers to buy your stuff.”

Here are a few of my general observations about the Occupy movement so far. I’ve walked through the Freedom Plaza and McPherson Square encampments in Washington, D.C. and Zuccotti Park in New York City multiple times and now have experienced Occupy Congress.

* The Occupy movement has been criticized for remaining leaderless and issueless. But that is the most brilliant aspect of this movement and what has allowed it to remain relevant and constantly evolving. The Occupy movement cannot be pigeonholed into just another special interest group or coopted by a political party or corporation like the Tea Party was corrupted by the Koch brothers and the Republican Party. The fact that Occupy has not been absorbed into the Democratic Party and has refused to be defined by a narrow agenda is exactly what has kept it so vital. Its populist 99% slogan is all it really needs because everyone brings their own issues and points of view to the table.

* Beyond the issues, the Occupy movement (and even the Tea Party movement before it was hijacked by right-wing businessmen and conservative Republicans) spawned from an underlying sense that something isn’t right in America. Poll after poll shows Americans believe the country is on the wrong track and there is deep distrust and resentment towards the political and economic establishment. The feeling that we have lost our way and that we need to get back to being great again is a prime motivator of this populist movement. The Occupy movement will last until the majority of Americans regain confidence in our political and economic systems.

* I’m still shocked that the Occupy movement has even taken place at all. I thought the economic crisis was not bad enough yet and that most Americans were too pacified by our crass commercial culture and media circus to get off our couches and take to the streets. I thought it would have to get to Great Depression levels with Hoovervilles again, which was the current trajectory we were on until Obama saved us from falling over the cliff. America is actually really lucky the Occupy movement is taking place right now and pushing leaders to take action so we not only avoid a Great Depression, but power out of this seemingly never-ending Great Recession and restore American Democracy and the American Dream for future generations.

Occupy Congress on Jan. 17

Saturday, January 14th, 2012

(Winning Progressive is happy to introduce everyone to our newest contributor, Josh Marks.  Josh is a Washington, D.C.-based environmental journalist and clean energy blogger. He was most recently a senior writer and editor at Green American Magazine and writes about the sustainable economy at his Green Forward website.)

(By Josh Marks)

“I think you’d have to go back to the 1850s to find a period of congressional dysfunction like the one we’re in today.” – Daniel Feller, U.S. History professor at the University of Tennessee

WASHINGTON – Tuesday, January 17th marks the return of the least popular (9% approval rating) and one of the least productive (62 signed laws) sessions of Congress in American history. And when the second session of the 112th Congress arrives on Capitol Hill they will hear all about it.

Lawmakers will be greeted by thousands of demonstrators from the most recent evolution of Occupy Wall Street – Occupy Congress.

Occupy Congress’ day of action, dubbed #J17 by organizers, will feature of a full slate of activities including citizens from across the country arranging meetings with their legislators, teach-ins, a rally, party and D.C. Voting Rights Vigil.

But what does Occupy Congress want? There are many issues to address and many failures to point out. Failure to take action on jobs. Failure to take action on clean energy and climate change. Failure to take action on infrastructure. Failure to take action on the housing crisis. Failure to take action on income inequality and the middle class. These are but a few of the many urgent items Congress has failed to even vote on. But the number one overriding issue preventing any real change is big money undermining the political process.

Lawmakers are used to being lobbied by big corporations with deep pockets. On Tuesday they will finally hear from the largest lobbying group in this country – the 300 million citizens of the United States of America.

I plan on reporting from the evening protest and rally so stay tuned to Winning Progressive for full coverage of the event.

How can you get involved?

The Occupy Congress website provides an events schedule, transportation logistics for those planning to come to Washington, D.C. from another state, a guide to scheduling a direct meeting with your congressperson, a list of solidarity events taking place around the world, how to donate food and more.

Weekend Reading List

Sunday, December 18th, 2011

For this weekend’s reading list, we have articles on how far off-base the GOP is, how militarization of the police has been going on for years in African American neighborhoods, an overview of the fundamental US economic changes that need to be addressed, and a thorough identification of all of the hurdles that the poor face in getting ahead.

If you have any feedback on these articles, or would like to recommend an article for next weekend’s reading list, please let us know at Winning Progressive’s Facebook page.

The GOP’s Crackpot Agenda – An accounting of how pro-wealthy elite, anti-environmental, anti-worker, and anti-government the GOP candidates running for President are.

From War on Drugs to War on Occupy – A report documenting how the increasingly militarized police forces who evicted Occupy Wall Street are nothing new, as such militarized force has been used in African American communities for decades.

The Book of Jobs – an essay explaining how structural changes in our economy from industrial to service-based have weakened our economy by shrinking the availability of secure middle class jobs.

If I Were a Poor Black Kid -an essay detailing the numerous hurdles to success that poor children of any race in the US face.  This post was in response to the absolutely ridiculous essay of the same name that was published in Forbes magazine earlier.